Patsy Cline

  • Country and pop singer born Virginia Patterson Hensley in 1932, in Winchester Virginia. Died in 1963 from a plane crash, at the age of 30.
  • She didn’t attend high school – instead, she worked as a waitress to help support her mother, brother and sister. At 15 years old, she asked a local DJ if she could sing on his radio show, and her performance was well received. She continued to sing on the program, and also appeared at nightclubs, wearing western outfits made by her mother. Her performances in variety and talent shows led to an increase in her popularity, and by 1954, she was a regular on Connie B. Gay’s Town and Country Jamboree radio show – Gay is considered a founding father of country music, creating the name “country music” for the genre (previously known as “hillbilly music”), and he was the founding president of the Country Music Association.
  • In 1953, Hensley married Gerald Cline, taking his last name. They were only married for 4 years before divorcing, but she kept the last name for the remainder of her professional life.
  • Her manager gave her the name Patsy, taken from her middle name. In 1955, she signed a contract with a record label. The label required her to only record songs written by writers employed by the label, so for 3 years, she recorded honky tonk music that the label produced. She released 17 singles to the country music charts from 1955 to 1960 – she managed 1 big hit with 1957’s Walkin’ After Midnight. It peaked at #2 on the country chart, and at #12 on the Top Pop Songs chart. The song originally was written for Kay Starr, but her label rejected it. Cline originally did not like it, thinking it was “just a little old pop song,” but she reluctantly recorded it. After she performed it on the TV variety show Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, her single sold over 1 million copies, and it often is on lists of the greatest country songs of all time.
  • Given her success with Walkin’ After Midnight, her debut studio album, the self titled Patsy Cline, was released in 1957. The album did not chart, nor did her other single released from the album. She would not have another success until 1961.
  • In 1958, Cline and her new husband and daughter moved to Nashville. She hired a new manager and changed record labels. The label felt she would be successful with country-pop crossover songs, and she worked on her vocal style, creating a silky, torch-song style. In 1961, she released her second studio album, Patsy Cline Showcase. It included 2 huge country hits – I Fall To Pieces topped the country chart, and Crazy reached #2. On the Hot 100, the songs reached #12 and #9 respectively – a rarity at the time for a woman to have crossover success. Crazy was recorded 9 months after I Fall To Pieces – in between, she was in a near fatal car accident, and she recorded Crazy while on crutches.
  • Her success got her membership into The Grand Ole Opry, and she became a mentor to many young women starting their careers in country music at the time – Loretta Lynn, Dottie West, Brenda Lee and Barbara Mandrell all credit Cline as their inspiration. She developed a confident, gruff exterior that made her popular with the leading men in country music.
  • In 1962, Cline released her studio album, Sentimentally Yours. The single She’s Got You became her second #1 country song, and it reached #14 on the Hot 100. It led to an appearance on American Bandstand, and she became the first woman in country music to headline a show in Las Vegas, as well as the first woman in country music to perform at Carnegie Hall (sharing the stage with Minnie Pearl and other men from The Grand Ole Opry).
  • In February 1963, she began recording her next album, originally titled Faded Love. The songs were a combination of country standards and pop classics, with full string orchestration. The following month, after a benefit concert performance in Kansas City, she was killed when her plane crashed in bad weather 90 miles from Nashville. She is buried in her hometown of Winchester Virginia, and a memorial marks the spot of the plane crash in Camden Tennessee.
  • After her death, a double compilation album, The Patsy Cline Story, was released in June 1963. It included her past hits as well as some of the songs she recorded in February. Sweet Dreams was released as a single, and it reached #5 on the country chart. The album was certified platinum in sales. In 1964, 2 more studio albums of new music were released. The song Faded Love was her last to break into the country top 10. A Greatest Hits compilation album released in 1967 became her best selling album – sales in the U.S. exceeded 10 million copies. The album holds the record for the most weeks on the country music album charts by a woman – it remained on the chart for 722 weeks.
  • Cline was the first female solo artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, in 1973. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp to honor her in 1993. In 2002, Country Music Television named her first on their list of the Greatest Women of Country Music, as chosen by members of the music industry. The Patsy Cline Museum is on the second floor of the Johnny Cash Museum building in Nashville.
  • Another “gone too soon” story here. If you love music, especially old time music, you have to appreciate Patsy Cline. Here she is, performing her mega-hit, Crazy. 

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